Air Bridge Cargo744F VP-BIM Herpa 1:400 2012

This seems to be something relatively unusual. Two or three seem to have come on to the market out of nowhere and were quickly snapped up. It looks like a Herpa corporate item, as it’s fully branded up as AirBridgeCargo, with barely a mention of Herpa. Interestingly while the box is clearly marked up for a 747-400, the image on the top front is of a 748F.

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We could be seeing more ABC models this year as the UK arm, CargoLogicAir, based out of Stanstead, has already taken delivery of a 744F and is about to get the former Boeing Seattle Seahawks 748F aircraft N841BA delivered as G-CLAB. The differentiator is a red tail flash rather than a blue one in the lower wave of the livery.

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ABC is part of Volga-Dnepr Group which was founded in 1993 to cash in on the collapse of the Soviet Union. ABC started up in 2003 and operations began in 2004. It now operates around the major cargo routes of the world with a mixed fleet of 748F and 744F as well a a recently added 733F for use inside Russia. I see them often when travelling via Frankfurt, over in the Cargo Centre.

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The airline performs schedule flights from the major cities in Asia to the major European gateways, as well as from Asia to USA via it’s hub in Sheremetyevo. The current route network includes: Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Zaragoza, Milan, Paris, Leipzig, Munich, Malmo, Basel, Helsinki, Liége,  & Cologne. In Russia: Moscow, Yekaterinburg, Khabarovsk, Novosibirsk & Krasnoyarsk. In Asia: Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Zhengzhou, Chengdu, Seoul, and Tokyo; as well as Chicago and Dallas in the USA.

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744F VP-BIM and 748F VQ-BLQ

That Russian cargo airlines roam unhindered around the world while the country is under sanctions for it’s illegal annexation of the Crimea and it’s war against the Ukraine, makes me wonder quite what the point of it all is. There is though a key issue that allows these freighters to fly freely. Western airlines need to over-fly Russia to get to the Middle and Far East, especially with Iraq-Syria-Ukraine air space effectively out of bounds. If we stop them flying, they’ll cut off their air space. Besides with Aeroflot the beneficiary of the fees charged by Russia for over flights of its terrirtory, they don’t want it either. It’s worth $600,000 a day to them.

Officially a 747-4HAFER VP-BIM was delivered 10th April 2008 on lease from Air Castle (she was the 18th from last 744F built). The HA designates her original client as Guggenheim Aviation Partners, who seem to have sold their interest to Air Castle.

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1)Fuselage

No issues with the mould. It’s the small detail that, while what is there is excellent, doesn’t amount to much. No sign of the huge nose door even in outline, and no radome either. There should be a window in the hull just above the foremost edge of the wing root, but it’s not there, nor are there any aerials or domes. The colours of the Russian flag next to the registration are almost impossible to see.

2)Wings and landing gear

The cradle fits superbly and the wings are excellent. Indeed the detail on and under the wings is simply amazing. Take note manufacturers who love to plaster their wings in gallons of gloss paint!

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However the one down side of so many Herpa models, (and if someone for Herpa world or knowledge of the subject knows, I’d love to hear about the reason), it has no stand hole. I find that disappointing, it prevents some decent photographic opportunities and no landing moments on that runway  I went to so much trouble to include at RLSI!

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Landing gear is the older fat tyre on a metal spigot – not unusual for the period but not very pretty or endearing in any way. It’s OK, just not brilliant.

 3)Engines

The four GE CF6-80C2B5F’s are adequate. The mould and shape is excellent but the paint finish is average on the fans, which seem to be bluish because the paint beneath is the same as the engine nacelles. As we have issues with metallic paint so often – it doesn’t like sitting on gloss or wet/tacky paint, these tend to make it disperse and the colour looks thin. The nacelles and the exhaust cones are however, very good.

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Yes, I’m being picky but this metallics issue is a joke in general, not so much on this model. How have these manufacturers, and I mean all of them, not worked out how to resolve it and stick with it after all this time? It’s a failure to buy-in quality suitable paints and almost certainly, failure to look after them once opened. Thinners evaporate and the suspension medium breaks down. We knew this 50 years ago. Humbrol, Airfix, Tamiya; they all knew this in the late 70’s when I was painting 1:3000 scale model warships for wargaming, so after twenty years almost of manufacturing how is it we still have trouble? How have Gemini, Phoenix, JCW, Herpa not worked it out yet?

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4)Nose detail

Flight deck is fine, there is no other detail.

5)Tail detail

Unlike some Herpa models no plastic. Otherwise well put together and no complaints.

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6)Colour

No issues generally, the Russian flag colours are very poor, verging on non-existent.

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7)Score and conclusions

  • -2 for the flag ‘colour’
  • -4 for the fan paint
  • 94%   However that score is deceptive. There is a lot of small detail missing, both Phoenix and Gemini/JCW would have added more. However the wings on this are excellent and the overall distant view – say from 24inches/600mm away, is more than acceptable. Yet while it is OK, it isn’t in anyway outstanding. What is there is very good, but it just isn’t inspired. It lacks that certain something. That “je ne sais quoi“, as the French would say. “I don’t know what” sounds less interesting, but while it’s in front of me and its perfectly alright, it is, I have to say, quite ordinary, if generally entirely competent.

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